PHOTO: HIEN CU
Doctors check a patient with a fatal skin disease that first appeared in the central province of Quang Ngai in 2011 and has since killed 25 out of 240 infected people, but still remains mysterious to local health authorities and scientists
Another person suspected to have a fatal skin syndrome has died in the central province of Quang Ngai.
The victim, a 17-year-old boy, was one of 17 people to have been suffering from the condition since it reappeared last month end after a few months’ hiatus.
Overall, the disease, known as the syndrome of dermatitis and horny layer thickening in foot and hand, has so far killed 25 people out of 240 who contracted it in Ba To and Son Ha districts since it was first detected in 2011.
Though it threatens to reach epidemic level, the disease remains “strange,” as the media often refers to it, to health authorities and even the country’s leading doctors and scientists. Despite doing various tests and inspections, they have yet to identify its cause or come up with effective treatment methods.
Such failure is disappointing, especially to those suffering from it. But it is understandable considering the country’s lack of know-how and experience in dealing with diseases. This disease is believed to have appeared for the first time anywhere in the world.
This time, however, it has caused not only fear but also a loss of faith among people in authorities.
It comes just two months after the Ministry of Health announced containing of the disease as one of its 10 outstanding achievements
of 2012 despite not identifying it or establishing an effective treatment regime.
The trumpeting was possible due to the sudden disappearance of the disease in the middle of August last year.
“People’s trust has eroded,” Pham Van But, chairman of the Ba Dien Commune People’s Committee, admitted in an interview to a local newspaper.
Though people are scared of the disease, they refuse to do any further tests or even take treatment because they see no point in doing that any more, he said.
Instead, older people in the affected localities have organized rituals to drive away “the ghost of the disease.”
When science cannot deal with a problem, it is understandable that people will turn to superstition for an explanation and ways to tackle it.
Le Han Phong, chairman of the Ba To District People’s Committee, asked “Are people from the medical field with advanced technologies really unable to do anything about the disease?”
That is not the only question.
Another is: Have health authorities and experts really made wholehearted efforts to find the answer to the problem? Or are they doing just the routine things done to tackle a disease outbreak and hoping for things to improve to claim credit?
Will they tackle the problem with more boldness now, like involving international experts in the mission right from the beginning, or will they again wait to be pressured by the public and media like they did last year?
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